THE HUMAN RESOURCE FUNCTION OF HARRISON BROTHERS CORPORATION
Harrison Brothers Corporation was founded in Sydney on September 15, 1898, by Aubrey and William Harrison. Harrison’s is a multi-line traditional department store which deals mainly with men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing. In recent years, the store has expanded to include household furnishings and other items for the home. The long term goal of the company is to become the leading chain of department stores in NSW, selling moderate to better priced merchandise to middle class, fashion conscious customers. Harrison’s is one of the largest privately owned retail stores in Australia. A majority of its 20 stores are located in Sydney. Its largest store is located in a major urban centre and has 950 employees. The company is highly decentralised and maintains a very small corporate office.
Traditional department stores like Harrison’s are beginning to experience the effects of a number of changes in the retail industry. Not long ago, major department stores succeeded by being all things to all customers. However, today’s customer is looking for both value and specialisation. Superstores and giant discounters are also popping up. At the same time, the industry faces the challenge of keeping a well trained, highly motivated sales staff and management team. James, Harrison, who is currently the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), describes the company’s strategic challenges for the next five years: “We can no longer continue to do the same old things that gave us a reputation for fair value. We must reposition ourselves – floor to floor – offering exciting brand names, excellent sales help, and frequent sales. We need sales staff who know the merchandise and understand customer preferences. Buying expertise is also critical because fashions and consumer tastes never stay the same. We have five strategic goals:
1. Convert non selling space into revenue generating selling space.
2. Build up underdeveloped merchandise categories.
3. Invest aggressively in private brands like Polo, Nautica and Tommy Hilfiger.
4. Reduce costs through use of advanced computer systems to project sales and manage inventory.
5. Improve productivity of sales associates, buyers, and department heads.”
James Harrison took over the business after earning an MBA at a prestigious business school. Unlike previous family members, he wanted to take a much more deliberate approach to charting Harrison’s future. To do this, he hired a consultant to assist in assessing the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Harrison felt that employee quality and performance would be one of the keys to the future. As part of his analysis, the consultant sought to learn more about the human resource function within Harrison Brothers. He decided to interview a few of the HR managers and other key managers at the store level. Both groups were also asked to complete a questionnaire of their perceptions of the responsibilities of the human resource function (see Exhibit 1.5).
The Westpark Store*
*The interview at the Westpark Store reflects what the consultant heard throughout the company.
Brenda Mc Cain has been Human Resource Manager at the Westpark store for the past four years. Prior to her employment at Harrison Brothers, Brenda had several years of experience in retail stores and came to Harrison’s after being a buyer at one of its major competitors. McCain has a degree in fashion merchandising from an Australian University of Technology. Currently, there are 950 employees at the Westpark store. The staff includes salespeople, sales support employees (dock, marking room, clerical and accounting), maintenance, security, and management. The Human Resource Department consists of five people (see Exhibit 1.4). During the peak holiday season, a number of people are hired as floating sales staff. These...
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